WYSO

Best of the Book Nook: A Conversation With Barbara Ehrenreich

Jun 28, 2017

When I called Barbara Ehrenreich in 1998 to conduct this live interview I was prepared to talk to her about her book "Blood Rites" which had just come out in paperback. We had a good conversation about it. Then midway through that interview I asked her what she had been doing recently and what things were on her mind at that very moment?

Well, that was my lucky day. At that point she revealed that she had just returned from a month she had spent working undercover to research a piece she was writing for Harper's Magazine. She had disguised herself as a job seeker with very few qualifications. She went out and found work as a waitress in a restaurant and as a member of a housekeeping crew at a motel. She wanted to see if it was possible to survive while working for the minimum wage in America.

After a month she had recognized the reality of the situation. It just wasn't possible. Many of her co-workers were technically homeless, working full-time for minimum wages and unable to afford housing. Some of them were living in their cars.

Ehrenreich's magazine feature became the foundation for what would become her book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America." That book has been a best-seller ever since and seems as timely today as it was when it was originally published. In this interview the author expressed her deep concern and outrage over the growing inequality in this country. There's nothing dated about this interview. Her words are just as powerful today as they were in 1998. Perhaps, even more so.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by five local library systems in southwest Ohio:  the Greene County Public Library,  Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.